Recovering Windows Operating System
There are a lot of different ways to recover your operating system to get up and running again. But be aware that performing a full recovery wipes out all of your data. Only follow these steps if you do not need to save any data or programs installed on your machine since it left the factory. This will wipe out all pictures, documents, programs – everything. It will be set back just like the day you bought it.
#1. If you can still boot your operating system, the first and easiest way to run recovery is from the built in recovery manager within the operating system. Most PCs have a recovery manager that you can run that will walk you through the process. HP’s and Dell’s recovery managers even have an option to save your data. I have used the “Save my Data” option before and even though it works I would never rely on this if you have any valuable data. I would manually back it up yourself before proceeding.
I believe Dell calls their recovery manager “DATA Safe Backup.” It creates an image of the OS before it left the factory so you can restore the factory image using DATA Safe Backup.
If you can’t boot into regular mode you can try booting into “Safe Mode” and get to the recovery manager from there. To boot into safe mode, shut the machine off. Upon booting the machine up, click on the F8 key repeatedly until you come to a Black DOS Screen with White text. Look for the “Safe Mode” option. If this lets you in, sometimes you can run a recovery from there.
#2. Each machine manufacturer has hot keys that can put you into recovery options:
HP = F11
ASUS = F9
Dell = CTRL + F11
Acer, Gateway, Emachines = F11
Another way to get into the built-in System Recovery is by clicking F8 like your going into safe mode and on some computers there is another option at the top that says “Repair or Recovery Options.” Clicking on that option will give you a list of tasks that you can perform. Within those tasks a lot of times there is the factory recovery option. Usually it is the option on the very bottom.
#3. If all else fails, you may have to take it into a computer repair shop and they can use a special OEM Install Disc to reload your machine back to factory settings using the license key on the bottom of your machine to properly license and activate. Make sure the repair shop gets all the required Drivers and apps from the original manufacturer’s website so your computer will function correctly. See our service page for pricing and details.
Other Notes About Recovery in Windows 8
Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 can be a completely different breed with their own special “Refresh PC Options.”
#1. My first recommendation when trying to reload the Windows 8 Operating system is to look for a built-in recovery. Dell has a DATA Safe program as mentioned above that you can search for by clicking on CTRL+Q. This opens the search box in the Charms Menu and you can search for “Recovery.” Do the same search for other computer manufacturers and you may be able to pull up their built-in recovery.
#2. If you can’t find it there then you do have a couple more options. Click on the power button as if you are shutting down your computer. In the power menu you will see an option to “Restart.” Before clicking on the restart button, hold down the Shift key. Keep holding it… Takes a few seconds but it puts you into “Advanced Mode.” Here we have lots of options. I am only going to talk about the ones relevant to this post.
Number one option you will see that you could use is: “Use a USB Drive, network connection, or Windows recovery DVD.” Most people never created there recovery media or got recovery media with their PC so most of the time this option won’t work. If you burned the recovery media but have already upgraded the machine to Windows 8.1 this option won’t usually work either.
If you didn’t create recovery media, click on “Troubleshoot” (while in Advanced Mode discussed above). After clicking on Troubleshoot you will get another list of options: “Refresh your PC,” “Reset your PC,” and if you’re lucky this is were you might see a manufacturer-specific BACKUP and RECOVERY option. If you have an option from the manufacturer of the PC, that is the one I recommend using.
I guess while we are here we can briefly talk about “Advanced Options.” From here you can get to System Restore which will restore your computer back to a certain date, System Image Recovery which will re-image your machine back to the point at which you took the image (if you created an image using Windows or Acronis), Startup Repair Options, BIOS Options, and Safe Mode options.
So to recap: if you have an option for Manufacturer Recovery, that is the option you want. It will reboot into a recovery environment and from there it will give you an option to Restore back to Factory settings, one option to also backup data and one option to not save data and just reload the machine.
If this option is not available, then the next best thing is “Refresh your PC.” This will save your data and reload the OS. And last but not least you have “Reset you PC.” This will do a full hard drive reformat and reload the OS back to factory settings.